When I started writing for Blogcritics last October, House, MD was already well into its fourth season; my first episode commentary was on the third episode of the season, “97 Seconds.” So as FOX re-airs season four on Monday nights over the summer, I will take the opportunity to fill in the couple of episodes I missed first time ‘round (I watched them, I just didn’t write about them!) Tonight, FOX re-airs “Alone,” the season four premiere.
When last we saw House, he had eliminated his entire team in one fell swoop in “Human Error.” Season four opens two weeks later, finding House as we last saw him — playing guitar. (Although now it’s no longer the vintage Gibson “Jumbo” acoustic model, but a vintage Gibson “Flying V” electric. Geez — he has nearly as many guitars as I have!)
Unwilling to hire fellows to replace the departed Cameron, Chase, and Foreman, Cuddy hands House a new case file. They argue in an exchange that can only be called “The Cuddy Blues,” their usual thrust and parry punctuated with electric blues riffs played by the ever-amazing Hugh Laurie on the aforementioned vintage electric. House contends that he can’t take on a case because he doesn’t have a team. And then that he doesn’t need a team because he doesn’t have a case. Obviously! After negotiating deal, House agrees to take on the case of a building collapse victim. If he solves the case without any help from an (unnecessary) team, Cuddy promises to leave him in peace for a week.
But in this tragic case of mistaken identity, the question becomes whether House might have solved his case quicker (and saved the patient) with a team of inquisitive fellows challenging his every theory. The patient, who is virtually unrecognizable after being crushed in a building collapse, exhibits symptom after symptom, each of which point to a lifestyle that is as unrecognizable as the victim’s face, leading House to conclude that she is leading a double life, lying to both her mother and her lover. House correctly treats each new symptom, “curing her” only for her to develop a new symptom, each time. In the course of diagnosis, he discovers that his injured patient is an alcoholic (unbeknownst to her lover) and has had a recent abortion (although her boyfriend insists that they were planning on having children). Not quite the girl with whom he believed himself to be involved!
When her final symptom turns out to be something not possible (an allergy to a drug to which she cannot be allergic), House finally realizes that she was misidentified in the chaotic aftermath of the building collapse. She is simply the wrong woman. Would House, team intact, have figured it out in time to save the patient? Is House, as Cuddy and Wilson contend, better off with a team than operating alone?